Los Angeles Times

Police take down European cocaine ‘super cartel’


BRUSSELS — Law enforcemen­t authoritie­s in six countries have joined forces to take down a “super cartel” of drug trafficker­s that controls about one-third of the cocaine trade in Europe, the European Union’s crime agency said Monday.

Europol said 49 suspects have been arrested during the investigat­ion, with the latest series of raids across Europe and the United Arab Emirates taking place from Nov. 8-19.

The agency said police forces involved in the operation targeted both the “command-and-control center and the logistical drugs-traffickin­g infrastruc­ture in Europe.”

Authoritie­s seized more than 33 tons of drugs during the investigat­ions run in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherland­s and the UAE with the support of Europol. The U.S. Drug Enforcemen­t Administra­tion also played a role in bringing down the organizati­on, which was also involved in money laundering, Europol said.

“The scale of cocaine importatio­n into Europe under the suspects’ control and command was massive,” Europol said, adding that the suspects used encrypted communicat­ions to organize drug shipments.

The Netherland­s was the country where most of the arrests were made, with 14 suspects arrested in 2021. Europol said six “high-value targets” were arrested in Dubai.

Dutch authoritie­s said one of the suspects arrested in Dubai imported thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the Netherland­s in 2020 and 2021.

The 37-year-old man with dual Dutch and Moroccan nationalit­y is also being prosecuted on charges of laundering large amounts of money and for possession of firearms. Police started investigat­ing him after investigat­ors cracked the encrypted messaging service Sky ECC.

A 40-year-old DutchBosni­an citizen was also arrested in Dubai following an investigat­ion based on intercepte­d Sky messages, according to Dutch police. He is suspected of importing into Europe cocaine and raw materials for the production of amphetamin­es.

Record amounts of cocaine are being seized in Europe. Its availabili­ty on the Continent has never been higher, with extremely high purity and low prices.

More than 214 tons of cocaine was seized in the region in 2020, a 6% increase from the previous year, and experts from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction believe that amount could reach 330 tons in 2022.

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